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436th Friday Blog Roundup

I have been thinking a lot about that New York Times article about the importance of family stories; of creating family holidays and creating a family culture.  I think my parents and my larger extended family did a good job of shaping a family culture.  There are stories that keep getting passed down through generations and made-up words and shorthand.  I am close with my siblings and my parents.  I feel as if we all belong to one another, like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces connect snugly.

Some Jewish couples have an engagement ceremony called a tenaim.  We did, and we created two versions of the wedding conditions that we wrote together outlining both what was important to us as a couple as well as promises we were making one another in regards to our marriage.  It contained the lofty (how we wanted to raise the kids) and the mundane (financial decisions).  The first version was made as a piece of art that we currently have framed in our living room, and the other was painted directly onto the pottery that we broke.  We actually had our mothers do the breaking, placing the ceramic tile inside a pillowcase to catch the fragments.  And then we placed a chunk of pottery inside a clear box and tied it with a knotted ribbon to symbolize that idea that marriage will bond us together and to ever part would cause the heart to fragment.  We gave a piece each to our siblings, parents, and grandparents, and we have one in our house too.

[As a side note, family members, no harm no foul if you’ve lost our tenaim piece.  I mean, it’s just the manifestation of our wedding vows…  Um, I am just kidding.  I get that my marriage is important to me, and lots of other people are cheering us on, but I don’t expect everyone to still know where their shard of pottery is in the house.  But, if you have lost your piece and would like a new one, we happen to have the pillowcase in our storage room and we’d be happy to pass along another copy.  And no judgments about all the crap in the storage room — our tenaim is important!]

So, family culture, I think we’re doing a decent job of creating that for the twins.  They know their place in the much larger family story going back many generations (remember the never-ending family tree project from last summer?  We’re continuing it this summer with a family website and oral history project).  We have family holidays and made-up words and stories we tell over and over again.

But I was thinking about how these stories are also one thing that makes death so difficult.  Why we’re gutted even when the death occurs at the end of a long life.  Because for the rest of us who are left behind, that death cuts us off from our stories.  Our chronological space in the family doesn’t change, but the virtual space it occupies does, shifting us around, creating fissures, melding people.  And this thing that we’ve determined is so important — the key to our happiness: stories — is the one thing we can’t ask about anymore.  We can’t go back to that person and ask all the questions that we think of — because don’t we always think up one more question after the person is gone?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, the idea of our family stories, and how many times I have thought to call my grandmother to tell her something.  Her phone number is still in our phone, and I sometimes scroll past it when I know I can’t call her just to feel as if I’ve connected somehow.  I have an audio tape in a storage box of her telling me stories about her childhood, and my goal this summer is to go through those boxes and find the tape so I can make a digital copy.

There are questions that I can ask others in the family and get an answer, but there are things that she took with her, that I can never find out now.  Things I hadn’t thought to ask or record.

These are ideas that I played with a lot in Measure of Love, a paper tenaim, our connection to those stories and losing them with death.  I just hadn’t really put together how I had been thinking about this for a long time before I realized that I was thinking about this for a long time.


And now the blogs…

But first, second helpings of the posts that appeared in the open comment thread last week.  In order to read the description before clicking over, please return to the open thread:

Okay, now my choices this week.

Two Adults, One Child about the wave of anger she is feeling after the loss of her child.  She writes with such honesty: “I’m not even going to try to justify myself today, or talk myself down.  No introspection, no justifications.  I’m not going to start spouting all the advantages of having a family of three, and I’m not going to even think about how exciting it might be to be making a new start now that we’ve given up the infertility fight.  Those things may be true, but they don’t change one simple fact – that this situation is really fucking unfair.”  Please go read the whole post.

Something Out of Nothing has a raw post about mourning after a negative IVF cycle.  She moves in chunks of time, charting the process of letting the news sink in.  It is a very moving post.

Hapa Hopes has a post about a series of incidents at work which reveal how differently she processes her infertility than those around her.  Whereas they see her as cured now that she is pregnant, she knows the truth that not only do children not repair uteruses, but they also don’t erase all that came before them.

Family Building with a Twist has a post about how quickly her son has grown, and how they are culling out the baby items.  It’s a bittersweet post about not knowing what the future holds, but wanting to hold onto the present tightly.  She says it perfectly: “This wistfulness? They don’t mention that in the parenting books.  It hurts. A lot.”

Red’s Wrap has an amazing post on BlogHer about parenting after adoption.  I really can’t do it justice with a description, especially the powerful ending.

Lastly, is it wrong that I laughed through a lot of Bionic Mamas’s post on her uterine news?  Especially, “So. Out it comes, via hysteroscopy. That’s hyster- for “uterus” and -scopy for “you’d rather not be awake for this.”  It was just a damn fine read.

The roundup to the Roundup: More thoughts on our stories, tenaim, and death.  And lots of great posts to read.  So what did you find this week?  Please use a permalink to the blog post (written between March 15th and March 22nd) and not the blog’s main url. Not understanding why I’m asking you what you found this week?  Read the original open thread post here.


1 Tracie { 03.22.13 at 8:50 am }

I love your Tenaim story – both the hanging it on your wall, and the sharing pieces of the broken plate with your family. If I was going to have another wedding (my husband and I have already had three of those with each other, we seriously do not need another one!), I would borrow that idea.

2 a { 03.22.13 at 10:13 am }

Ooooh – put this one on the list for next week’s must reads (ha – like people who read the round-up won’t have already read it! But put it on again!)

That’s what I hate most about having lost family members. I can’t hear their stories any more. My aunts used to take us out for dinner around New Year’s every year. At some point, my cousin came up with the idea that they should tell us a story from their childhood – about themselves or about our parents. It was pretty cool to hear them. My dad would tell us hilarious stories about my grandfather’s driving (in)abilities. But my aunts had perspectives that were different and equally entertaining. And in this, I learned that between my two aunts and I, we had preferences for restaurants that are “conversation friendly.” And on the other side, we always enjoyed when my mom’s two sisters would tell stories about their childhood, because a) they were all rotten and b) none of them would tell on themselves, but they were always happy to tell on each other. My grandmother never told many stories. I bet she had some good ones…

3 marwil { 03.22.13 at 12:14 pm }

A raw and honest post about the darkest darkness infertility can bring, something that is not talked about very often:

4 It Is What It Is { 03.22.13 at 12:50 pm }

I loved this post, time whooooshing, by Kate at I Can’t Whistle. Such a lovely post about all the things about her daughter she wants to remember and about just ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’ all the time. If we all only had a pause button sometimes.

5 Alicia { 03.22.13 at 1:13 pm }
6 knottedfingers { 03.22.13 at 3:57 pm }

My Memento Mori post has had over 635 hits, my most ever achieved on my blog and people say it’s definitely something to check out


7 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.22.13 at 4:25 pm }

Husband and I talked with the kids over dinner the other night about our family stories — kind of quizzing them (but not in a pointed way) to see what they know about our family’s history. They know a lot! They reveled in telling us the childhood stories of their grandparents. The conversation made me so happy.

I notice that each of my kids are testing out their story-telling skills. I see them sharing a vignette with a friend. And later with a different friend. Refining and honing the delivery, the details.

On a different note, I still get very sad each time my Facebook brings up my piano teacher. And, at the same time, I love the chance to connect with her in this weird way.

Can’t wait to read Measure of Love.

8 luna { 03.23.13 at 3:29 am }

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, the impact on death on the story itself as well as the telling.

about 3.5 yrs ago, when I was with my mom and we all thought she was dying (she still is, years later), my visit was filled with stories and a lot of “what do you want to know” conversations. and it made me think of sitting in my nana’s bedroom 14 yrs ago while she was dying slowly, spending the afternoon with her and M, sitting on the foot of her bed while she spun tales I had heard before, but never with so much love and wistfulness, so much joy in her face. that day moved me to tears many times, and since. M and I still talk about it, and I imagine one day we’ll share her story with our girls too, though now it is also shaped by her telling of it this last time.

lovely post.

9 luna { 03.23.13 at 3:29 am }

first line should say impact OF death, not on. duh.

10 loribeth { 03.24.13 at 9:47 am }

I know more than a few people brought up the difficulty of telling family stories when the stories are not entirely happy… here’s a response that explains why they are still worth telling:


11 Amanda { 03.24.13 at 9:17 pm }

Em’s post “A Birthday of a Different Sort” on mourning, remembering, and mothering the son she lost three years ago.


12 loribeth { 03.27.13 at 8:19 am }

Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed had a wonderful post explaining her decision, as a Catholic, to support marriage equality:


13 nonsequiturchica { 03.27.13 at 3:11 pm }
14 Elizabeth { 03.27.13 at 5:54 pm }

This was a lovely post about twins, and time going too fast:

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